Fans love players who can score goals; it’s what wins games and gets people off their seats cheering on their team. From audacious chips to 30-yard thunderbolts, there’s something special about seeing a great goal being scored.
The best strikers are always the most sought-after players; their goals can propel a team to league glory or even keep a team in the league.
When a striker hits form, they suddenly look like they can’t miss, and their confidence soars. The better a striker feels, the more they score, and the cycle continues, sometimes leading to an incredible season.
Today, we’ll look at seven of the most incredible single-season scoring feats in history, those once-in-a-lifetime seasons where a player seemingly can do no wrong.
We include league, cup, and European competition to the tally; if it’s a recognized competition, we’ve counted it. Prepare to be amazed at some of soccer’s most incredible scoring feats.
7. Lionel Messi – 60 Goals (2012/13)
The season after he broke every scoring record known to humankind, Lionel Messi, the most talented soccer player of all time, had a slightly quieter season.
After a 2011/12 season where he scored a record 73 goals in all competitions, 2012/13 saw the precocious Argentine striker score a mere 60 goals.
While most players would be thrilled with a 20-goal season, Messi was made of sterner stuff and would finish the season with 46 La Liga goals, eight Champions League goals, and four Copa del Rey goals.
Finishing one of the best seasons in his career with the European Golden Shoe award for the most goals (obviously), Messi would prove yet again that he was the greatest player of all time.
The Argentinian scored 133 goals in European competitions within two seasons, and he had done so before the age of 26. The world of soccer couldn’t comprehend these kinds of figures and could only wonder how much better the player would get with age.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo – 60 Goals (2011/12)
In any other season, a player scoring an incredible 60 goals in all competitions would have been lauded as genuinely unbelievable.
Unfortunately for Cristiano Ronaldo, he scored 60 goals in a season when Lionel Messi scored 73. It shouldn’t detract from what was an astonishing achievement, but we can imagine the competitive Portuguese legend being most displeased.
Ronaldo had a truly superb season with 46 league goals and 10 Champions League goals, one that he can look back on with real pride in later years.
Consistently brilliant, always focused, and at times unstoppable, the Portuguese striker used his incredible strength and determination to destroy teams.
A very different player to the diminutive and elegant Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo spent the 2011/12 season going through teams like a battering ram.
Supremely talented and incredibly skillful on the ball, Ronaldo could accelerate past players or just go straight through them; the result was the same.
Goal followed goal in one of the most incredible individual displays ever seen by an individual player. It could be argued that the team around Ronaldo wasn’t as strong as the one around Messi, making his goal exploits even more impressive.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo – 61 Goals (2014/15)
Not content with his 2011/12 haul of 60 goals in a season, the mercurial Cristiano Ronaldo would go one better in the 2014/15 season, scoring a magnificent 61 goals in one season. 48 La Liga goals would propel the Portuguese striker to the European Golden Boot award.
Another ten Champions League goals would make the player the joint-highest scorer in that year’s competition, alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar.
His incredible season would also lead to Ronaldo being crowned the 2014 Ballon d’Or winner, one of five times the player has won soccer’s most prestigious individual award.
Incredibly, despite Cristiano Ronaldo having a season where everything went right individually, Real Madrid suffered several last-gasp losses and would finish the season with only two trophies.
Barcelona would win both the Champions League and La Liga, with Madrid finishing in second place in the league.
4. Dixie Dean – 63 Goals (1927/28)Embed from Getty Images
One of England’s greatest and most underrated players, William “Dixie” Dean, was a prolific striker for Everton during the 1920s and 1930s, scoring an unbelievable 354 league goals in 399 league games.
Dean is still the only player to have scored 60 goals in a single season in the English leagues, though for a time, it looked like the player’s career was over before it had begun.
After signing for Everton in 1925, Dean had an excellent first season with the Liverpool club, scoring 32 goals in his first season.
Just 12 months later, the England striker would suffer a fractured skull and jaw in a horrific motorcycle accident, and his career looked to be over before it had begun.
Amazingly, the player made a full recovery, and in the 1927/28 season, Dean would go on a scoring spree that English soccer would never see again.
Scoring 60 league goals in a single season, Dean would become a household name, and his exploits for Everton would lead to an England call-up, where the player would score 18 goals in just 16 appearances.
3. Gerd Muller – 66 Goals (1972/73)
Gerd Muller, Germany’s greatest-ever striker, smashed the league goal record in the 1972/73 season.
Muller scored 36 league goals to top the league charts, 19 German cup goals, and 11 European Cup goals as he helped his team to a league championship and a quarter-final finish in the European Cup.
Muller was the perfect poacher, rarely scoring goals from a distance, the German predator instead preferring to stay close to the goal and use his speed over short distances to dart in front of defenses.
Perfectly balanced and with a sharp soccer brain, Muller was always in the right place at the right time, the perfect predatory striker.
In his 605 Bayern Munich appearances, Muller scored an astonishing 53 goals, making him the most feared striker in European competition.
Beloved by the fans, Muller began to struggle with alcoholism after retirement, and the club helped their former legend by bringing him back into the fold to train youth players.
2. Ferenc Deak – 66 Goals (1945/46)
You can be forgiven for having never heard of Ferenc Deak, the Hungarian striker who spent his entire career playing for teams in his homeland.
With a goalscoring record that is comparable to the very best strikers in world soccer, he’s a player that’s worth taking a closer look at.
With 435 appearances for clubs in Hungary, Deak was an important player; 647 goals in those games tell us he was absolutely clinical in front of goal.
The 1945/46 season was the pinnacle of this Hungarian international’s career, as Deak would go on to score 66 goals in a single season.
Perhaps even more impressively, Deak only scored in league matches, scoring 66 goals in just 34 matches. At a rate of nearly two goals a game, Deak would go on to be awarded the Hungarian Player of the Year award, and rightly so.
While at Ferencvaros, Deak was part of an attacking lineup that scored 140 goals in just 30 games, with Deak notching up 59 of them.
Had this talented Hungarian been playing in a more popular league, his achievements would likely have seen wider acclaim; a genuinely astonishing season by an incredible player.
1. Lionel Messi – 73 Goals (2011/12)
In a truly landmark season, Lionel Messi would go on to become the greatest player in the history of soccer, ending the 2012 season with an unprecedented 73 goals in all competitions.
In the same year, Messi would become the all-time leading Barcelona goalscorer after surpassing the 57-year record of 232 goals that Cesar Rodriguez had held.
Messi would finish the season with an incredible 50 league goals, 14 Champions League goals, and multiple national and European cup competition goals.
Achieving all of this at only 24 years old, Messi announced to the world that he had become the complete player.
In a season that saw the Argentinian break record after record, his breathtaking displays were applauded by soccer fans worldwide as some of the most impressive ever seen. Rival players, pundits, teammates, and fans all agreed; Messi had broken soccer.
With young stars such as Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe heading into the superstar soccer player category, it will be interesting to see if these players will ever be able to usurp Messi as the greatest player of all time. They’ll undoubtedly have to score many more goals, but even then, given just how incredible Messi was at his peak, it’s a big ask.